Judge won't side with Fiat Chrysler in motion on Dodge Dart clutch case

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The iPhone can be used with 2013 Dodge Dart as displayed during the 2012 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, Monday, January 9, 2012. - ANDRE J. JACKSON/Detroit Free Press/TNS

DETROIT — A federal judge in California has denied Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ latest legal challenge in a fight over allegedly defective clutches in 2013-15 Dodge Darts.

FCA, which has denied claims of a defect, wanted to have the class action involving the Darts decertified, but U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, in a decision Friday, rejected that effort, which focused on several legal arguments, including one related to how class members would be identified.

The judge, in disputing FCA’s argument, noted, for instance, that “identifying class members will not result in a series of separate trials to determine whether a class member purchased the class vehicles primarily for personal, family or household purposes.”

FCA spokesman Mike Palese said FCA is considering its legal options, including an appeal as the case continues.

The plaintiffs allege that defects in 2013-15 Dodge Darts equipped with a Fiat C635 manual transmission can cause the clutch to fail and the clutch pedal to stick to the floor, potentially leading to stalling, according to court records, which note that FCA has identified 1,900 members of the class. The case involves vehicles purchased in California.

One of the named plaintiffs, Carlos Victorino of Chula Vista, Calif., said he brought his Dart with 34,351 miles on the odometer in to be serviced in January 2016 because the car wouldn’t accelerate. The clutch assembly and other parts were “overheated and worn,” and he was charged more than $1,100.

The plaintiffs say FCA’s proposed fix for the issue is inadequate and can leave them with repair expenses they must cover. The claims are said to exceed $5 million.

The case was filed in June 2016. Additional court filings could happen before the end of the month.

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